Will Obama, Rouhani Meet?

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“Thirty-four years have passed since Iran and America severed relations,” wrote Reformist newspaper Etemaad in an article headlined “Rouhani-Obama: One Meeting, 50 Views” that compiled the views of Iranian politicians, economists, sociologists and writers on whether Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and American President Barrack Obama would meet one another at the UN General Assembly this week.

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Iran General: Israel’s Apology To Turkey Meant to Weaken ‘Regional Resistance’

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Iran’s Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces said that “the apology from the prime minister of the Zionist regime to the government of Turkey for the attacks on the [Turkish] ship in 2010 is a new game by America, Israel and Turkey to influence regional resistance, especially the Islamic Awaking [Arab Spring].”

IRGC General Massoud Jazayeri told Sepah News on Saturday that “under today’s conditions, the prime movement of the world arrogance is to replace Iran’s [place] in the Islamic world.” He added that “the elite of the Islamic world must be alert and conscious and not allow America and its allies to lessen public awareness.”

On President Barack Obama’s trip to Israel last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologize for Israel’s raid on a Turkish ship that was attempting to pass through its naval blockade of the Gaza strip in 2010. The raid left nine dead. Netanyahu was quoted as saying that the crisis in Syria was “his main motivation” for the call.

General Jazayeri added that the “the combination of those against Syria proves the government’s and country’s legitimacy.” He explained that “right now, America, England, France, Arab reactionaries, Turkey, and the Zionist regime form the prime anti-Syrian ring and this combination is a good indication of an anti-resistance front.” Iran sees itself, Syria and Hezbollah in an “axis of resistance” against American and Israeli influence in the region. They view the support by the West and Gulf Arab countries as a means to weaken this axis.

Ahmadinejad Ally Warns About Interference in Elections

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In an interview with state-run IRNA yesterday, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei said that “the president has strongly emphasized and has even stated that if he feels that either secretly or openly the elections become tainted, he will deal with it seriously.” Mashei said that in a meeting with the governors of the provinces the president warned against “showing partisanship” towards any of the candidates during the administration of the elections.

Iran’s presidential elections are in June 2013 and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been using the final months of his presidency to campaign and promote his longtime advisor Mashei as a candidate for the presidency. Since the president’s second term Mashaei has been attacked by conservatives and hardliners for an apparent promotion of “Iranianism” over “Islamism” and has been accused of being at the center of a “deviant” strain within the administration.

President Ahmadinejad had previously warned on several occasions about “interference” in these upcoming elections. In January of this year, Hojat al-Islam Ali Saeedi, Khamenei’s representative in the Revolutionary Guard said that “[the body’s essence] is to engineer the elections logically and rationally.”

Mashaei also criticized national media for their coverage of the elections. He said that “on the threshold of elections, from the view of partisanship towards candidates in the upcoming presidential elections, the national media has not performed well.” He added that “people remember well the performance the national media in the previous elections and that the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) should act with care and pursue a more moderate path.”

In the June 2009 elections, heated and somewhat sensational televised live debates between presidential candidates drew in millions of viewers. Live televised debates have been banned for these upcoming elections.

Iran Media Skeptical About Obama’s Nowruz Message

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In a video to the Iranian people and leaders on Monday, President Barrack Obama released his fifth Nowruz message. The Nowruz New Year holiday is one of the most important and oldest holidays in Iran and is celebrated in many other countries in the Middle East and the Caucuses as well.

In the nearly four-minute speech, President Obama addressed the “decades of mistrust” between Iran and the US and reiterated his preference to resolve questions about Iran’s nuclear program “peacefully and diplomatically.” He reminded the Iranian leaders that “now is the time for the Iranian government to take immediate and meaningful steps to reduce tensions and work toward an enduring, long-term settlement of the nuclear issue.” He added that if a solution is reached, “the Iranian people will begin to see the benefits of greater trade and ties with other nations, including the United States.”

Hardline website Raja News wrote that “Obama showed with this message that he has tried to attract the confidence of the people of Iran with words and show.” The article added that “even though in the beginning of his message he focused on the need to solve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program through negotiations, at the end of his message he contradicted himself by speaking with a threatening tone about the continuation of pressure on the people!”

The Raja article asked that since “the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency has not shown that Iran has deviated into a nuclear-weapons program, so for what reason is America worried, and why are the Iranian people witnessing this pressure and sanctions from the European Union and the West?”

The articled embedded a video of Obama’s message but oddly omitted his greeting. Perhaps because Obama used the Persianized “doroud” rather than the Arabized “salaam” for his greeting. Although both can be used, “salaam” is most commonly used in Iran, while “dorood” has become somewhat more pervasive in the Iranian Diaspora in recent years.

Toward the end of his speech, President Obama quoted a verse from a poem by Hafez: “Plant the tree of friendship that bears the fruit of fulfillment; uproot the sapling of enmity that bears endless suffering.” The 14th Century poet Hafez was born in Shiraz, Iran and his tomb in Shiraz is a popular site for tourists.

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Conservative website Enthekhab surmised that the president “apparently used his Shirazi advisor, Valerie Jarrett, while acknowledging the Iranian nation’s long history and civilization, made a reference to a poem by the famous Iranian poet Hafez.” Jarrett was born in Shiraz to American parents and is currently a senior adviser to the president.

Entekhab said that “analysts” believe that “this message is like the previous [Nowruz] messages and only with a change of expressions and the use of Iranian advisers […] sought to take advantage of the nation’s feelings with references to the national and Islamic identity of Iranians.” The president did not make a reference to Islam in his speech.

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Hardline website Mashreg wrote that the president’s message was “more than an address to the Iranian people; it was a negative answer to the Zionist regime’s demands that Washington intensify their hostilities against Tehran.” The article also found it noteworthy that the president used the word “Spring” and “Nowruz” in the same way that “some [Ahmadinejad] did domestically.” President Ahmadinejad has been using traditional Iranian festivals as a sort of a campaign rally to promote his ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashei as a possible candidate in the next presidential elections.

Mashreg suggested that “one should wait and see what Obama and his administration do this upcoming year, and do they act as Hafez recommends and uproot from its roots the sapling of enmities against the Iranian people, which has turned into a tree, or does he apply more pressure.”